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Program in African American Studies


Eddie S. Glaude Jr.


Wallace D. Best, also Religion

Anne A. Cheng, also English

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., also Religion

Tera W. Hunter, also History

Imani Perry

Associate Professor

Wendy L. Belcher, also Comparative Literature

Joshua B. Guild, also History

Naomi Murakawa

Chika Okeke-Agulu, also Art and Archaeology

Stacey Sinclair, also Psychology

Assistant Professor

Anna Arabindan-Kesson, also Art and Archaeology

Ruha Benjamin

Kinohi Nishikawa, also English

Keeanga Y. Taylor

Lecturer with Rank of Professor

Nell I. Painter

Albert J. Raboteau

Associated Faculty

Eduardo L. Cadava, English

Paul J. DiMaggio, Sociology, Woodrow Wilson School

Mitchell Duneier, Sociology

Simon E. Gikandi, English

William A. Gleason, English

Hendrik A. Hartog, History

Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

The Program in African American Studies was founded on the assumption that the study of African American history and culture and of the role that race has played in shaping the life and the institutions of the United States is central to an American liberal education. Given the continuing and evolving centrality of race in American political, economic, social, and cultural life, and indeed, in every region of the world, reflection on race and on the distinctive experiences of black people is indispensable for all Princeton students as global citizens. Drawing on a core of distinguished faculty in areas such as anthropology, art and archaeology, English, history, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology, the program promotes teaching and research of race with a focus on the experience of African Americans in the United States.

The program's curriculum reflects the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces that shape our understanding of the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in this country and their relation to others around the world. Toward that end, the certificate is organized into three thematic subfields:

1) Global Race and Ethnicity: Using race and ethnicity as a lens, students are introduced to a critical perspective and approach to the examination of American institutions (e.g., schools, families, prisons, etc.). They are also exposed to other related questions such as the formation of racial and ethnic identities and the nature of inequality in an increasingly global context.

2) African American Culture and Life: Drawing on the insights of cultural studies, broadly understood, students encounter the rich history, literature, religion, and the arts of African Americans. Moreover, pushing the boundaries of historical accounts of African American life beyond U.S. national borders to include the diaspora in all of its diversity and plurality, this subfield also familiarizes students with many of the contributions of African-descended peoples around the world.

3) Race and Public Policy: Exploring, among other things, the historical, cultural, political, and economic causes and consequences of problems facing African American communities, students examine the various initiatives that have defined American public policies in relation to race. In addition, they are challenged to assess the implications for creating and implementing effective public policies that directly relate to communities of color in the United States.

Admission to the Program

The Program in African American Studies offers students concentrating in another department the opportunity to earn a certificate in African American studies. Undergraduate students may apply for formal admission to the certificate program at any time once they have taken and achieved a satisfactory standing in the core course, AAS 201, Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices.

Program Requirements

In addition to taking AAS 201, students seeking a certificate are required to take two courses in the African American Culture and Life subfield. These two survey courses must be selected from the history and literature series, one of which must be a pre-20th-century course (marked with an *below). Qualifying courses include:

    AAS 353/ENG 352 African American Literature: Origins to 1910*
    AAS 359/ENG 366 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present
    AAS 366/HIS 386 African American History to 1863*
    AAS 367/HIS 387 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

Students will take two additional courses in AAS or approved cognates for a total of five courses required. They are strongly urged to choose additional courses from either the Race and Public Policy subfield or the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield. Students are encouraged to make race central to their senior thesis.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in African American studies upon graduation.

Interested students are advised to contact the program office. For the most current information see the program's website.


AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices   Fall SA

An interdisciplinary examination of the complex array of African American cultural practices from slavery to postmodern times. Close readings of classic texts will seek to provide a profound grasp of the dynamics of African American thought and practices. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Glaude

AAS 202 Introductory Research Methods in African American Studies (also SOC 202)   Not offered this year SA

The purposes of this course are to assist the student in developing the ability to critically evaluate social science research on the black experience and to do research in African studies. To accomplish these goals, the course will acquaint students with the processes of conceptualization and basic research techniques, and some of the unique issues in conducting research on the black experience. A variety of appropriate studies will be utilized. One three-hour seminar. Staff

AAS 210 Introduction to African-American Music (also MUS 253)   Spring LA

What is African-American music? Is it a set of genres, sound characteristics, or musical approaches? Is it based on who creates, or who receives the music? How has an African-American musical tradition undergone continual re-definition, and how might we understand these developments within historical context? This course will address these questions by studying African-American music from a variety of perspectives, drawing from historical and critical readings, and sound and visual media. C. Bryan

AAS 211 The American Dance Experience and Africanist Dance Practices (see DAN 211)

AAS 221 Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender (see SOC 221)

AAS 235 Race Is Socially Constructed: Now What? (also SOC 236)   Spring SA

The truism that "race is socially constructed" hides more than it reveals. Have Irish Americans always been white? Are people of African descent all black? Is calling Asian Americans a "model minority" a compliment? Does race impact who we date or marry? In this course, students develop a sophisticated conceptual toolkit to make sense of such contentious cases of racial vision and division as the uprising in Ferguson. We learn to connect contemporary events to historical processes, and individual experiences to institutional policies, exercising a sociological imagination with the potential to not only analyze, but transform the status quo. R. Benjamin

AAS 245 Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movements (also ART 245)   Fall LA

This course surveys important moments in 20th-Century African American art from the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s to the 1960s Black Arts movement. Our close studies of the work of major artists will be accompanied by examination of influential theories and ideologies of blackness during two key moments of black racial consciousness in the United States. We shall cover canonical artists and writers such as Aaron Douglas, James van der Zee, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, James Porter and Jeff Donaldson. C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 262 Introduction to the Evolution of Jazz Styles (see MUS 262)

AAS 274 Growing Up Global: Novels and Memoirs of Transnational Childhoods (also COM 274)   Fall EM

What if the real answer to the question "Where are you from?" or "Where did you grow up?" is so complicated that you tend to give a convenient rather than honest answer? This course will explore narratives of youthful cultural and linguistic adaptation by those who have spent their childhood crossing national boundaries. Among the topics of discussion are how the narrators construct meaningful identities and produce a sense of belonging or alienation through narrative. Two lectures, one preceptorial. W. Belcher

AAS 301 Black to the Future: Science, Fiction, and Society (also SOC 367)   Fall, Spring SA

Designer Babies. Ancestry Tests. Organ Regeneration. Biometric Surveillance. These and more comprise our 21st century landscape. This interdisciplinary course examines the values and politics that shape science, medicine, and technology, asking who bears the risk and who reaps the benefit of innovations? Social inequality is legitimized, in part, by myths about human difference. And while course participants grapple with past and present stories that shape science and technology, we also apply a sociological imagination to the future, exploring how contemporary hopes and fears may give rise to "real utopias" that are more equitable and just. R. Benjamin

AAS 317 Race and Public Policy (see WWS 331)

AAS 321 Black Power and Its Theology of Liberation (also REL 321)   Not offered this year HA

This course examines the various pieties of the Black Power era. We chart the explicit and implicit utopian visions of the politics of the period that, at once, criticized established black religious institutions and articulated alternative ways of imagining salvation. We also explore the attempt by black theologians to translate the prophetic black church tradition into the idiom of black power. Our aim is to keep in view the significance of the Black Power era for understanding the changing role and place of black religion in black public life. E. Glaude

AAS 325 African American Autobiography (also ENG 393)   Spring LA

Highlights the autobiographical tradition of African Americans from the antebellum period to the present as symbolic representations of African American material, social, and intellectual history and as narrative quests of self-development. Students will be introduced to basic methods of literary analysis and criticism, specifically focusing on cultural criticism and psychoanalytic theory on the constructed self. One three-hour seminar. A. Raboteau

AAS 326 Landmarks of French Culture (see FRE 330)

AAS 340 Shades of Passing (also ENG 391/AMS 340)   Not offered this year LA

This course studies the trope of passing in 20th century American literary and cinematic narratives in an effort to re-examine the crisis of identity that both produces and confounds acts of passing. We will examine how American novelists and filmmakers have portrayed and responded to this social phenomenon, not as merely a social performance but as a profound intersubjective process embedded within history, law, and culture. We will focus on narratives of passing across axes of difference, invoking questions such as: To what extent does the act of passing reinforce or unhinge seemingly natural categories of race, gender, and sexuality? A. Cheng

AAS 346 The American Jeremiad and Social Criticism in the United States (see REL 367)

AAS 347 Art School at African American Studies: Process, Discourse, Infrastructure (also VIS 337)   Fall LA

Combining actual making with art criticism and an examination of the circulation of contemporary art, particularly the of work of black artists, this seminar is structured around fundamental art concepts such as line, color, illustration, abstraction, multiples, beauty, and meaning. Given the historical centrality in African American art of representations of black bodies, the course pays special attention to figuration and portraiture. Its aim is not to make skilled artists, but to provide a materials-based, tactile experience of art making and its evaluation. N. Painter

AAS 350 Rats, Riots, and Revolution: Housing in the Metropolitan United States (also SOC 362)   Fall HA

This class examines the history of urban and suburban housing in the twentieth century US. We will examine the relationship between postwar suburban development as a corollary to the "underdevelopment" of American cities contributing to what scholars have described as the "urban crisis" of the 1960s. Housing choice and location were largely shaped by discriminatory practices in the real estate market, thus, the course explores the consequences of the relationship between public policy and private institutions in shaping the metropolitan area including after the passage of federal anti-housing discrimination legislation in the late 1960s. K. Taylor

AAS 351 Law, Social Policy, and African American Women (also GSS 351)   Not offered this year SA

Journeying from enslavement and Jim Crow to the post-civil rights era, this course will learn how law and social policy have shaped, constrained, and been resisted by black women's experience and thought. Using a wide breadth of materials including legal scholarship, social science research, visual arts, and literature, we will also develop an understanding of how property, the body, and the structure and interpretation of domestic relations have been frameworks through which black female subjectivity in the United States was and is mediated. I. Perry

AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 (also ENG 352)   Fall LA

A survey of literary materials produced within the African American experience, from the 18th century through the contemporary period, with special emphasis on genre, theme, and context. The course will investigate dominant and marginalized literary histories and the importance of gender, region, and sensibility. Two lectures, one preceptorial. C. Brown

AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present (also ENG 366)   Spring LA

This course explores the relationship between cultural production and historical phenomena (such as the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement, for example) in 20th- and 21st-century African American literature. Additionally, we will consider the place of African American literature and cultural production in a diasporic context that encompasses decolonization, multiculturalism and globalization. Primary texts include novels, short fiction, drama, essays, poetry and performance culture. K. Nishikawa

AAS 362 Race and the American Legal Process: Emancipation to the Voting Rights Act (also WWS 386/POL 338)   Not offered this year SA

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition. I. Perry

AAS 363 Topics in the Politics of Writing and Difference (see SPA 352)

AAS 364 Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America (see HIS 393)

AAS 366 African American History to 1863 (see HIS 386)

AAS 367 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present (see HIS 387)

AAS 368 Topics in African American Religion (also REL 368/POL 424)   Not offered this year EM

Assesses the value of religion and its impartations of the historical, ethical, and political in African American life. Courses will also critique African American religion from a broader contextual basis by establishing commonalities and differences across historical and cultural boundaries. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff

AAS 373 History of African American Art (see ART 373)

AAS 380 Public Policy in the American Racial State (also AMS 382)   Fall HA

In the context of de facto equality but persistent racial inequality, how do we identify race's role in public policy? This course addresses this question by drawing on a range of interdisciplinary texts. We begin by exploring different theoretical perspectives of race, seeking to define "the racial state" in historical and comparative terms. We then consider how race interacts with a variety of American political institutions, including the welfare state, immigration regulation, and the criminal justice state. We give particular attention to the complexities of racial construction and race's intersection with other forms of hierarchy. K. Taylor

AAS 389 Women Writers of the African Diaspora (see ENG 389)

AAS 392 Topics in African American Literature (also ENG 392)   Not offered this year LA

A historical overview of black literary expression from the 19th century to present day. Will emphasize a critical and analytical approach to considering the social, cultural, and political dimensions of African American literature. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Brooks

AAS 408 Forms of Literature (see ENG 402)

AAS 411 Art, Apartheid, and South Africa (also ART 471/AFS 411)   Spring LA

Apartheid, the political doctrine of separation of races in South Africa (1948-1990), dominated the (South) African political discourse in the second half of the 20th century. While it lasted, art and visual cultures were marshaled in the defense and contestation of its ideologies. Since the end of Apartheid, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, and scholars continue to reexamine the legacies of Apartheid, and the social, philosophical, and political conditions of non-racialized South Africa. Course readings examine issues of race, nationalism and politics, art and visual culture, and social memory in South Africa. C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 420 Seminar in American Politics (see POL 420)

AAS 477 The Civil Rights Movement (also HIS 477)   Not offered this year HA

This interdisciplinary course examines the evolution of African American social and political mobilization from World War II through the 1970s. Through an analysis of historical scholarship, oral history, sermons, works of literature, film and music, it explores the various ways that African Americans articulated their political demands and affirmed their citizenship using the church, grassroots organizations, workers' rights, feminism, education, war, the federal bureaucracy, and the law as tools for political action. The course also considers the ways these movements have been remembered, memorialized, and appropriated in more recent times. J. Guild, I. Perry